Two years after their son’s tragic death, a couple has finally gotten closure about his final moments, thanks to a treasure hunter who discovered the man’s lost camera.
Georgia native Richard Ragland drowned in 2017 after he and some friends decided to stop for photos at a Tennessee waterfall. The group recorded themselves splashing and laughing in the water on Ragland’s GoPro, just moments before the then-22-year-old’s devastating accident.
As Ragland was a strong swimmer, his parents struggled to understand how their son could have drowned. But according to the sheriff who handled the case, Ragland’s death was determined to be the result of a simple accident, WSB-TV reported. His friends corroborated, saying that the young man had gone too deep and couldn’t get back to the surface in time.
One of the other swimmers had tried to rescue Ragland before it was too late but wasn’t able to get him out of the water quickly enough. Heartbroken, Ragland’s parents couldn’t shake their desire for answers.
“Rich was full of life,” his mother, Robin McCrear, told WSB-TV.
“He was about helping others and living life to the fullest,” his father, Gary McCrear, added. For two years they have waited and wondered. Park rangers from the falls initially sent a package that was supposed to hold footage of Ragland on the day of his death, but the thumb drive inside had been stolen in transit, according to WSB-TV.
The McCrears had all but given up when they received a phone call from a stranger claiming to have found Ragland’s GoPro.
YouTube treasure hunter Rich ‘Aloha’ Abernathy was diving near the same waterfall where Ragland drowned when he stumbled upon a camera buried in the mud at the bottom of the swimming hole. Remembering the story of the young man’s death, Abernathy immediately suspected that the GoPro might belong to Ragland.
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Pulling out the camera’s SD card, the YouTuber was stunned to discover that it still worked, in spite of almost two years spent suspended in the silt. Abernathy went through the camera’s footage and discovered a video of Ragland’s last moments.
“This is the guy!” he remembers saying. Touched, he knew he had to find the man’s family.
“I strongly believe that God led me to this GoPro because the only thing I saw was the end tip of the thumb screw and everything else was just covered in muck,” he told WSB-TV of the surprising discovery.
“For him to go through his efforts to do his research, make numerous phone calls, he didn’t give up until he got in touch with us and that means the world to us,” Robin said. Abernathy hunted through as much research as he could, finally finding a phone number online. He called the McCrears and let them know the news — finally, they had a video of Rich.
“The SD card was intact. All his footage was there. It was like an out-of-body experience,” Robin said.
“I’m glad I found it, personally, because I try to do the right thing and get the item back to the rightful owner,” Abernathy remarked.
“My heart breaks for the family and friends of Richard L Ragland III,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “I’m beyond amazed that God used me as a vessel for His glory to return such a priceless GoPro to the family!!! #Miracles happen and #Prayers really do get answered! Trust me!”
The couple said they have yet to watch the last few moments of the film. They think they need a little more time to prepare before they are ready for the answers they’ve been waiting for, concerning his death. For now, they are enjoying the footage of Ragland laughing with his friends–joyful, happy and strong.
“What we’ve seen so far is Rich being Rich, living life to the fullest,” Robin said. Now, with the closure, they believe they can begin to heal.
“We miss him dearly with all of our hearts,” she added.
The Western Journal reached out to Rich Aloha Abernathy but has not yet received a response. We will update this article if and when we do.
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